Transport secretary ‘asleep at the wheel’ during HGV crisis

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has admitted that Britain’s lorry driver crisis means there could be food shortages at Christmas.

It comes after a series of retail figures warned that the country’s faltering supply chain could not support increased demand during the festive season.

Waitrose chief executive James Bailey claimed some families might miss out on a turkey, while Iceland boss Richard Walker said he was “sounding the alarm” over potential “big shortages”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Shapps set out plans to increase the number of HGV drivers by 50,000 within a year.

READ MORE: HGV test rule changes is a ‘recipe for disaster’, Labour warns

He appeared to ignore calls from experts to bring in a visa to plug short-term shortages in the run-up to Christmas.

Almost 50,000 drivers have left the road in the last two years thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

However, Shapps denied that leaving the EU had caused Britain’s need for 90,000 hauliers, claiming that Poland’s shortfalls were more severe.

Mainland Europe has a drought of around 400,000 lorry drivers.

Shapps claimed labelled Covid-19 the “number one cause” of the crisis but said the “problems had been coming along for a very long time”.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the changes were “far too little and far too late”.

“We’ve all seen supermarket shelves empty and now it’s affecting the delivery of vital medical supplies,” he said.

“Industry’s been warning of this crisis for years but the secretary of state has been asleep at the wheel.”

Three months ago, transport minister Charlotte Vere reportedly accused the grocery sector of “crying wolf” over driver shortages.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • It’s the haulage industry that’s been asleep at the wheel for the last 25 years, In a 2002 article in Commercial Motor the RHA claimed the industry was 80,000 drivers short, in 2014 the industry went Cap in hand to the Government because they claimed there weren’t enough HGV drivers, it turned there were, they just didn’t want to work long hours, for low wages, fight their way through the UK’s congested road network just to sit in supermarket distribution centres for hours because they were a few minutes late, and when they parked up for the night they had the choice of many layby’s with a hedge to do their ablotions in.
    The industry has had years to sort out driver recruitment and retention issues, but has failed to tackle it head on, instead believing gimmicks like “Love the Lorry week” will save it.


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